Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill

About this Item
SpeakersO'Doherty Mr Stephen; Newell Mr Neville
BusinessBill, Second Reading

Page: 12392

    Second Reading

    Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

    Mr O'DOHERTY (Hornsby) [8.37 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on the Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill, which continues the process that has developed in the past few years of the Government trying to grapple with the need to obtain approval from Parliament before it spends public money. This matter has been much discussed in recent years, no better than by the Auditor- General of this State when he reported to Parliament in volume 2 of his 1998 report as follows:
        The Parliament cannot with certainty establish its own timetable.
    He is referring to the Government's process of appropriating money for public purposes—
        It can be prorogued at any time by the Governor on the advice of the Premier, as we saw earlier on in the life of the current Government.
    He is, of course, referring to the Carr Government. The Auditor-General continued:
        We have also seen the Government advising the Governor not to proclaim legislation which the Government opposed, notwithstanding that the legislation has been passed by both houses.

        And we have seen Government reluctant to table documents required by the Legislative Council to hold the Government responsible and accountable.

        In this context, it is easier to understand why public servants might not consider Parliament's laws to be crucial when those laws conflict with a pragmatic approach to the Government's management of expenditure.
    The Auditor-General was sounding an important alarm bell for the people of New South Wales. He continued:
        The current Government has responded to concerns about unlawful expenditure—
    And it is unlawful expenditure of public money—
        by introducing proposed retrospective, validating legislation.
    The bill is retrospective validating legislation to cover over unlawful expenditure by the Government without the approval of Parliament. The money has already gone; it has already been taken out of the public purse; it is spent. The Government now asks Parliament to approve what it has done unlawfully. The Auditor-General went on to say:
        It [the Government] has also received Parliament's approval to move away from appropriations to programs for 1998-99 in favour of one-line appropriations to entries. This has reduced the prospects of unlawful spending, but the particular option advanced by Government has also reduced the extent of parliamentary control. The remedy thus, once again, empowers the Government at the expense of responsible or accountable government.

    Those comments, which were made by the Auditor-General in 1998 are, as I said a moment ago, an important alarm bell for the people of New South Wales, who expect that the Parliament they elect will hold the Government accountable for the spending of public money—money that is collected through income tax, State taxes, and petrol excise. The Commonwealth passes back to the State 8.35¢ per litre, notwithstanding the Treasurer's deceitful denial over the last few months. The people expect that the Parliament they elect will be able to hold the Government accountable for the spending of that money.

    I happily admit that the process that we have arrived at, with further budget variations bills such as the one we are now considering and the one that the Minister gave notice of the other night, together with what is available for the Treasurer to spend through his advance, which he now accounts to the Parliament for, is a step in the right direction. Under section 22 of the Public Finance and Audit Act the Governor can approve additional expenditures beyond the budget for the exigencies of government. There is much debate about what the exigencies cover. In recent years the definition has been broadened quite a bit in practice. Some of those mechanisms are improvements on the time in 1998 when the Auditor-General was warning that the Carr Government was spending money unlawfully. It is still important for the Opposition to do its job properly by sounding the alarm bell. We are not happy with the retrospective approval by the Parliament of money that has been spent.

    As I will demonstrate in only a few of the items that I will touch on, matters of great public importance and large amounts of public money are involved. Sometimes they involve new policy initiatives which deserve the ventilation in Parliament rather than just a ministerial decision to spend large amounts of money from the Treasurer's fund and account for it later to Parliament in a one-line entry or, indeed, as part of an aggregated entry in the schedule at the back of the budget variations bill such as the one which is now before us.

    It is not as if the New South Wales Government has been disciplined for the way it has spent or accounted for its expenditure. Indeed, the latest Auditor-General's report to the Parliament on the state of the budget showed that last year the Government collected in round terms a billion dollars more than it had budgeted for. The money went straight out the door again. Government revenue is up substantially but government expenditure is up by, from memory, a slightly larger amount than the amount collected in additional revenue. The increasing surplus this year is primarily due to the different way of calculating the ongoing liability of the State Superannuation Fund. The actuarial assumptions have changed, which has allowed Michael Egan to add several billion dollars to his budget surplus. It is only an accounting entry; it is not a real surplus. There has been a real lack of discipline this year, as there has been in previous years, by the Government in the area revenue versus spending.

    That is why the appropriations process, which requires the Parliament to keep the Government accountable, is important. It is why we have worked so hard over the years to preserve the estimates committee process that was introduced by the Coalition Government prior to 1995. In a briefing from Treasury officials both yesterday and today that I was grateful to receive I raised a number of items. Other matters might be raised by my colleagues in another place. I make clear that the Opposition will not oppose the Appropriation (Budget Variations) Bill. It would be plainly silly for us to do that. Most of the money has already been spent. As the Auditor-General asked in 1998, what use is Parliament, which has the power to authorise spending, when the money has already been spent by the Government unlawfully?

    There are expenditures in the bill that we agree with, but they have been spent beyond the original budget. The Opposition will refer the matter to the ongoing upper House estimates committee, General Purpose Standing Committee No. 1. As an important matter of principle we say that just as the budget each year has the benefit of full scrutiny by the Parliament's estimates committee process, additional budget variations should have that same scrutiny. I have had discussions with the chair of the committee about referring the bill to the committee when it is debated in another place. The four or five specific matters I wanted to raise include the Olympic attendance allowance. When will there be a full accounting by the Carr Government of the amount of public money that was spent on the Olympics? Every time we look there is a new appropriation for money spent on the Olympic Games.

    The Olympic Games were the best ever. Sydney and Australia were showcased. However, the Government seems not to have done the job properly of promoting business in New South Wales prior to and during the Games. We should be reaping a greater benefit than we are. We are concerned that we are not already seeing the flow-through effects of the Games that there should have been. But that is a discussion for another time. We do not quibble with the Games; we won the Games for Sydney, New South Wales and Australia, and they were the best Games ever. But the taxpayers of New South Wales are entitled to ask—and the Opposition is the appropriate body to ask the question—when will we stop paying for the Games? In this bill, and without any warning from the Government, is additional Olympic expenditure of at least, at a conservative estimate, $40 million.

    I will go through how that figure is arrived at. In this bill we discover that at least another $20 million, and probably much more than that, has been spent by the Government in additional payments to public servants who worked during the Olympic Games. Why were there additional payments? There were overtime and other penalty payments for working double shifts and so on. The public servants who worked at the Games worked very hard. They helped stage a successful Games. They worked alongside the volunteers who also worked hard for their country in staging the Games. And there is no overtime payment for volunteers. There is no additional shift allowance for the volunteers who also worked all day and all night. The mean-spirited Premier will not even mint a medallion to commemorate the work of the volunteers at the year 2000 Games in Australia.

    The mean-spirited Premier is the same Premier who, one week before the Olympic Games, signed off on an award for public servants who worked at the Games to receive additional penalty payments and shift allowances. There was no public disclosure of the matter, which was quietly ratified in the Industrial Commission on 8 September, about a week before the Games began. The negotiations took place directly with the Premier's office. Negotiations were conducted in the secrecy of the Premier's office and ratified in the week before the Games when the eyes of Australia and the world were focused on other things. That decision has cost the people of New South Wales at least another $20 million and, indeed, more than that because in this bill we can account directly for the additional expenditure in five individual agencies of government. This bill also contains expenditures for the Olympic attendance allowance in seven other agencies. But it includes that figure as an aggregate amongst other figures.

    I would point out that this is money spent by the agencies. This is not money provided by the Government from some great big pool that Michael Knight left behind him. This is money to be spent by the agencies; it is in their budgets. The botanic gardens trust had to spend an extra $17,000 and New South Wales Fire Brigades had to spend an extra $348,000 for overtime. That was to pay for the overtime that staff from those agencies worked during the Olympic Games. Out of the Fire Brigades budget comes $348,000 to pay for additional overtime as a result of the deal stitched up by the Premier in the week before the Games.

    The Department of Health—a department that is strapped for cash; the Minister for Health is always telling us how hard he has been working to try to get more value out of the health dollar—had to spend another $301,000 from the Minister's budget to meet overtime payments under the deal. Of course, the additional cost to the budget for the Olympic Roads and Transport Authority—not the overall wages cost, but the additional cost for overtime and shift allowances—is $16 million. That is, $16 million was spent unlawfully, and the Government now seeks the Parliament's approval for that unlawful spending through this further appropriations bill.

    I now turn to the Police Service. Not a member of this House would do other than admit that their communities want and need more police in their local area commands. From the budget of the Police Service—which is having a great deal of trouble even maintaining its staffing levels, let alone getting the new staff that the Government promised; a department that is closing down police stations in the Premier's electorate and elsewhere throughout New South Wales—comes a further $2.5 million for additional salary costs for police who worked at the Games. This extra cost is not to be paid for by Michael Knight, the Olympic Co-ordination Authority [OCA] or any of those agencies, but paid for by the people of New South Wales from the Police Service budget. Those additional payments total $19 million.

    Other agencies have figures accredited to them as part of a global amount appropriated by this bill . Those global amounts include the Olympic attendance figures that I have been talking about. The appropriation proposed by this bill to pay for the expenditure of all those agencies is $26.3 million. So there is $19 million in direct expenditure that we can account for, as well as part of the $26 million, which together total well over $20 million. Then there is the fact that the Government told us when handing down the budget in May last year that the Olympic Games were fully paid for. What a great day it was for democracy when Mr Egan, the Treasurer from another place, made his yearly pilgrimage down to the Legislative Assembly.

    Mr Crittenden: He is coming up, not down, when he comes to this place.

    Mr O'DOHERTY: I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that Mr Egan is taking a step up when he comes to this Chamber, to the people's House. The Treasurer came to the people's House and said, "The Games are paid for—every single last cent." A great cheer went up from the Government benches. We on this side were saying, "Pull the other one!" Within a month or so Mr Egan was coming back to the Parliament and saying, "Sorry, we need another $141 million, if that's all right with you. But then it is all paid for." Today we find that, apart from the Olympic attendance allowance—which, as I have already said, is an extra sum of more than $20 million—the OCA has spent, after the Olympic Games that were "paid for", another $17.8 million on what is called "temporary urban domain works".

    In the briefing I received I was told that that relates to transport and people-moving related expenditure—in other words, signs at bus stops and the like. The people movement for the Games was good. But why could the Government not have budgeted for that before the staging of the Games? Why is it that the Government must come back to the Parliament now to seek approval for the over-budget spending of $17.8 million for signs and bus stops? Why could it not have budgeted for that in the first place? Now the Government comes to the Parliament and asks for retrospective approval for that expenditure.

    All of this adds to the Olympic bottom line. Bit by bit, additional costs keep eking out. Very keen to draw a line under this, the Treasurer himself, shortly after the Games were finished, came out and said, "Now we can tell you exactly how much the Games have cost," and he put a figure on it. That figure, by my calculation, is about 50 per cent under the true cost. When the Treasurer made that statement—which was, from memory, in about November last year—did he know about all this additional expenditure that the Government now comes to the Parliament to seek approval for? We are talking about more than $20 million in additional wages and overtime for public servants and about $17.8 million for additional bus stop signs. These are amounts not budgeted for when the Government originally told this Parliament, "With this budget the Games are fully paid for."

    The Coalition does not deny that the public servants who worked hard should receive their wages. It is a good and ancient principle that the worker deserves his wages. But we do demand that the Government be more accountable for the way in which it spends public moneys. This is a very shabby exercise in the expenditure of at least $20 million, and probably very much more than that, in additional salary costs and additional expenses to do with infrastructure works. This money should have been accounted for before it was spent. The Coalition says also that the Premier, having approved more than $20 million in overtime payments for public servants, should now admit that he was wrong in denying a medallion for the volunteers who worked alongside those public servants.

    Those volunteers worked every bit as hard as the public servants, without any payment at all. Those volunteers will tell you—and I agree—that their effort was a contribution, an investment that they made, in their country. We would all agree with that. No-one is denying it. It would be nice if the Premier, having spent more than $20 million in overtime for public servants, minted a medallion to recognise the contribution of the Olympic volunteers. There are a lot of other matters that I would deal with, but I do not want to delay the House for too long. Another matter that concerns the Coalition—indeed it concerned the Auditor-General that there is this process of spending money first and seeking approval later—is the underspending by government departments.

    One such instance is dealt with in the bill that is before the House tonight. Information technology has been an important project within the Department of Community Services for a number of years. As a former shadow Minister for community services, I know that every time the Minister is asked why it is that a child who has been reported as being at risk to one office is not matched with the database of another office, the Minister will say, as she has been saying for the past six years: "Don't worry, we're fixing that problem; we are installing a new information technology system; we will be able to computer match the records; we are centralising our databases." And so it goes on, the same excuse for six years.

    We find out from the bill now before the House that the DOCS information technology project in the year 1999-2000 did not spend $4 million of the money it was voted by this Parliament. No wonder today there is still no centralisation of those records and the information technology project of DOCS drags on! No wonder children are still at risk today! That is without doubt due in no small part to the appalling state of the information management systems within the Department of Community Services. We find out from this bill that the department did not spend about $4 million that it was given two years ago, so the Government seeks by this bill to carry forward the amount of $4.4 million, to be spent in the current financial year.

    We want the Department of Community Services to spend this money to fix the problem. That children are at risk demands that expenditure. That practice in DOCS—I would hazard a guess that most government agencies are underspending their votes from this Parliament, especially in the capital area—has to change. Ministers like making announcements about some grand scheme. But we find out 12 months later, when we get to scrutinise the budget, that the money for the scheme was never spent. So the responsible Minister makes the same announcement the following year. I feel confident in predicting that the Minister for Community Services once again will announce that her department has allocated "another $2.4 million" to the information technology project.

    The truth will be that the department did not spend that money that was given to it the first time. One has to ask what is going wrong when that has happened in the Minister's department. Money that is critical to the improvement of information systems for the safety of children was not in fact spent. That is just one area in which such underspending occurs. I will not labour the point, but there are many other instances of similar underspending.

    Another important matter retrospectively paid for in this bill is teachers' salaries, with an appropriation of $65.7 million for teachers' salaries and the teachers' career transitional project. The status and salaries of teachers are critical matters for policy debate in New South Wales, as they are around the country. It would have been preferable for Parliament to have a say about this process at the front end of the budget, not at the back end. The Carr Government did not allocate money for teacher salary increases in the budget for the current year. Today I was advised by Treasury that it is not normal practice for government to make such a provision up-front. Prudent management would be to provide something up-front. Indeed, Parliament can easily measure the impact of the Government's approach to negotiations over the teachers' salary increase.

    The fact that there was no money for teachers' salaries was just part of an extraordinary 18-month process of bitter, soul-destroying negotiations between teachers and the Government. This has sullied relations within schools and between schools, teachers and the department for a long time. It will take a long time to repair those relationships because the Government refused to negotiate and provide any money for teachers up-front. This led to real damage being done to public education in New South Wales. The career transitional matter is also a component of the $65.7 million that the Government is seeking to appropriate. It also is an important policy matter that ought to be debated in this Parliament. I would have happily debated the matter across the Chamber with the Minister for Education and Training.

    We have had many good debates about education in this Chamber and sometimes they have had fruitful results. The Opposition remains ready to have debate on teachers' status and salaries. There has been no debate on this matter because the current Government only wants to say no, whack teachers behind the eyes as the first point in the negotiation and say, "See you in the commission" and off they go. As a result, there are strikes, kids unable to go to school, teachers becoming embittered and leaving the profession, and 18 months later finally there is a begrudging settlement. It would be better to have a proactive approach and policy debates in the Parliament where the people's representatives can discuss the matter on behalf of those who put us here.

    Mr Debnam: For the first time.

    Mr O'DOHERTY: It would be for the first time, as the honourable member for Vaucluse reminds me. It would have been better for this policy matter to be dealt with up-front rather than retrospectively. In relation to the Department of Sport and Recreation, there is a contract settlement of $55,000. The Auditor-General raised concerns last year about out-of-court settlements by government agencies. I have written to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament asking his committee to conduct an inquiry into this critical area. These out-of-court settlements usually have secret outcomes; it is usually agreed at law that the outcome will not be revealed. These involve large amounts of public money that are never debated in the Parliament, are never aired publicly or accounted for publicly but are sums that turn up in the budget papers from time to time as part of a grossed-up figure in the agency's overall spin.

    The use of out-of-court settlements, according to the Auditor-General, is increasing in New South Wales and it is time a proper inquiry was held into that practice because it is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. I do not know the full details of the contract settlement of the Department of Sport and Recreation. I was able to obtain some details in the briefing that I received today from the Treasurer and I am grateful for that, but surely that is the whole point. The Parliament needs to analyse things more fully if the Opposition is to be allowed by the Government to do its job properly of holding the Government accountable. That is another reason that the Opposition is referring this matter to the general purpose standing committee in the upper House to analyse some of the figures. An amount of $55,000 was paid to Emolium.

    I was advised today that the settlement related to a dispute between the department and this company over the resurfacing of Eastern Creek Raceway about four or five years ago—in about 1996. Apparently, the company asked for $120,000 more but the settlement eventually reached was for $55,000. We need to know what that related to; indeed, it is only fair that the Parliament have an opportunity to ask questions about this matter. If the Opposition had not picked it up as two words in the schedule to this bill—"contact settlement"—and asked a question about it, the public would be none the wiser. I have asked the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the matter. The chairman of the committee has written back saying that it is a matter the committee wants to investigate but does not have the resources or the time to do that at the moment. I encourage the chairman to hurry up because it is critical for Parliament to scrutinise the increasing use of out-of-court settlements in an unaccountable fashion by the Government to get itself out of problems.

    Another compensation payment of $15 million relates to government cleaning services out of the office of the Minister for Public Works and Services. Again, we discovered this recently just by accident. One must scrutinise and pick up these one-line statements. This was a one-off payment to a private company that was in dispute with its employees about the amount that they were paid to clean schools. The Government bails out this private company to the tune of $15 million, having got out of the cleaning business years ago, and we want to know why. Indeed, so do the people of New South Wales, because $15 million would make a good down payment on a very nice high school in my electorate or the electorate of the honourable member for Wyong. We would rather have new high schools, yet the Government has bailed out a private company to the tune of $15 million.

    I have touched on some matters, but there are scores of interesting stories about the ways in which the Government has tried to spend public money in an unaccountable fashion. As a matter of principle, accountability demands that the ongoing estimates committee of the upper House scrutinise this expenditure by the Government, as estimates committees scrutinise the budget each year. The Appropriations (Budget Variations) Bill should be treated like the Appropriations Bill—the State Budget—and the estimates committee should be able to call in public servants to obtain detailed information about some of the matters I have raised tonight and others I have not touched on. The Opposition will not oppose the bill, but we will refer it to the ongoing estimates committee in the upper House.

    Mr NEWELL (Tweed) [9.07 p.m.]: I support the Appropriations (Budget Variations) Bill and make some comments on how the Appropriation Bill has affected the electorate of Tweed, in particular, the previous Appropriation Bills in the course of the last 18 months or so.

    Mr O'Doherty: Point of order: The Appropriations (Budget Variations) Bill is very specific: it details the expenditure this Parliament is being asked to approve. I do not want to cut off the honourable member for Tweed, but a clear ruling must be given by the Chair. The honourable member has just said that he wants to talk about appropriations bills of the previous 18 months. They are not before the Parliament. This bill stands on its own and, therefore, the honourable member has leave to discuss only the specific items contained within this bill.

    Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills): Order! No point of order is involved. The honourable member for Tweed is in order in referring to schedule 2. He may continue.

    Mr NEWELL: This bill is to appropriate additional amounts from the Consolidated Fund for the purposes of recurrent services, capital works and services for the year 2000-01 and 1999-2000 for the purpose of giving effect to certain budget variations. I refer to some of the services that have been garnered from this Government—services that will have an effect on the Tweed electorate. The honourable member for Hornsby referred to certain aspects relating to the budget of the Minister for Police. I refer also to the wonderful budgetary allocation by the Minister for Police for the transfer of the firearms registry to Murwillumbah, in the Tweed electorate. The transfer of the firearms registry, which was opened recently, resulted in an additional 50 jobs in the Tweed electorate and particularly in Murwillumbah—a great boon to the economy.

    The Minister has been most generous in the Tweed electorate. He has upgraded police stations on the North Coast, at both Tweed Heads and Kingscliff, rather than closed any down. That work, which is under way, is greatly appreciated by staff at both stations. I refer to police numbers in the Tweed electorate. The Minister did two things in that electorate to assist in getting police back on the beat. First, he provided tactical action groups for local area commands and, second, he transferred prisoner escort duties from the Police Service to the Department of Corrective Services. That posed a staffing problem for Kingscliff police station as staff at that station were seconded to transferring prisoners, mostly from Tweed Heads police station to the District Court in Lismore. That freed up a number of police officers, and, consequently, more police are on the beat.

    Another massive project being undertaken by the Federal and State governments in the Tweed electorate is the Yelgun to Chinderah freeway. Two-thirds of the money is being provided by the New South Wales Government. That $350 million freeway upgrade will result in the replacement of a disastrous and unpleasant section of road between Murwillumbah and Burringbar, known as the Burringbar Range, with 28 kilometres of dual carriageway. That freeway upgrade, which will create 200 jobs for people in the local area, will have spin-off effects for housing and businesses on the Tweed coast.

    Another major project that has already proven to be of great benefit to the Tweed is the Tweed River sand bypass—an election commitment of some years ago. That project is now under way. Sand pumps have already been tested and they are ready for official commissioning. That project, which will benefit the Tweed and Gold Coast areas and the tourism industry, is a result of cross-border co-operation between Queensland and New South Wales. The bulk of the money for that project is being allocated by the New South Wales Government. I mentioned earlier that that $30 million project had been commissioned and I referred also to the spin-offs from that project. A number of boat manufacturers have already shown an interest in the Tweed. A large number of boats would normally bypass the Tweed and go to the Gold Coast or even to Brisbane, but, because that river is now being dredged, those boats are mooring on the Tweed River and are already presenting overcrowding problems. The word has already got around that the river entrance is no longer a problem.

    I referred earlier to the Minister for Transport and a $400,000 grant from the New South Wales Government to Tweed Shire Council to assist with the upgrading and revetment of the Tweed River at Chinderah. A development application has already been lodged for Chinderah marina. A marina would not have been able to be constructed in that area if council had not upgraded and revetted river embankments to prevent erosion. The New South Wales Government allocated $400,000 to fix that section of the embankment near the old Pacific Highway at Chinderah, and work is already under way.

    A number of projects have been good for the Tweed electorate, including the redevelopment of Tweed District Hospital, which has resulted in new and better medical services in the region. Those services are being upgraded in line with capital works that will come on stream in about 18 months. I refer also to the work of the State regional development office at Tweed Heads—a great office that does tremendous work in supporting and assisting the development of new and existing businesses. The Attorney General, the Hon. Bob Debus, has allocated $40,000 for the cross-border crime prevention plan. That plan is unique, in that Gold Coast City Council formulated a community crime prevention plan for the Tweed Heads and Coolangatta region.

    Obviously Gold Coast City Council was interested directly in implementing a community crime prevention plan in the Coolangatta area to make it a better and safer haven for tourists. The council appreciated that there was no point in implementing a community plan in the Coolangatta area without doing something in the Tweed Heads area. Money will be allocated to Tweed Shire Council to implement a community crime prevention plan. It would be great if Tweed Shire Council came on board and implemented a community crime prevention plan for the whole of the Tweed shire to help areas like Murwillumbah and the Tweed coast, which have experienced some problems.

    I neglected to mention two other projects. About three weeks ago the Minister for Health opened a new community health centre in Murwillumbah and a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community health centre at Tweed Heads. The State Government was involved in those projects, which are benefiting people in the Tweed and Gold Coast regions. Two weeks ago the Attorney General, and Minister for Emergency Services opened a bushfire control centre at Murwillumbah, which will cover the whole of the Tweed shire and co-ordinate responses between the large number of bush fire brigades throughout the shire. At the opening I had the opportunity to say a few words.

    Last year at the Tweed Valley harvest festival—or the banana festival, as it is known—members of the bush fire brigades who were on parade pointed out just how good their equipment is now that the State Government is upgrading it. The New South Wales Commissioner of Bush Fire Services, Phil Koperberg, attended the opening of that centre with the Minister and outlined further plans for upgrading that equipment. That statement was well received in regional areas. I congratulate the Minister on the good work he is doing in that area.

    The New South Wales Department of Education and Training will soon release in the Tweed coast region a discussion paper entitled "Future Directions in Educational Service Delivery". That paper, which took 12 months to prepare and will probably be released within the next three to four weeks, covers service delivery to local schools. People in that area have been looking forward with anticipation to that discussion paper and its various options for the delivery of education services in New South Wales. The Minister for Education and Training has shown great enthusiasm and keenness about it because of the various options that will be available to people in the Tweed. I do not wish to delay the House any longer but it is my esteemed pleasure to indicate my support for the bill and I look forward to the Opposition's support for it.

    Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Debnam.